Many Americans of many different backgrounds have been gripped with fear over the possible consequences of the recent presidential election. But one group of "undesirable" Americans has been overlooked. This is a different kind of group, one not based on ethnicity or religion, but rather employment status.
Thousands of Oregonians are either employees or owners of cannabis businesses. To the extent that they are involved in the recreational cannabis market, they are—in order to pay the rent and feed their families—committing federal felonies on a daily basis. And now the threat of a job loss or jail time looms over their lives like never before.
As Smoke Signals said last week, Trump's position on states' legalization of recreational cannabis is clear as mud. By contrast, the position of Jeff Sessions, his new Attorney General, is clear as day. "Good people don't smoke marijuana," Sessions said earlier this year. "We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized... It's in fact a very real danger."
Sessions has not specified how or why cannabis is dangerous, which is unsurprising since there is actually no evidence to support his position. But Session's position is shared by Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, whom Trump has reportedly offered the responsibility of being "in charge of all domestic policy." With that responsibility comes a unique opportunity for Pence and Sessions.
The size of the recreational cannabis market is set to nearly triple with the addition of California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine to the list of states where recreational cannabis businesses will be allowed. And of course the markets in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, where recreational cannabis is already legal, are growing quickly too.
That means there will soon be many, many more owners and employees of recreational cannabis businesses around the country. And with these states receiving huge streams of tax revenue and reporting few if any negative social consequences from legalization, the list of legalizing states is set to grow beyond the current tally of eight.
But the unholy triumvirate of Trump, Pence and Sessions has the opportunity to nip it in the bud, as it were, to put an immediate halt to the spread of legal recreational cannabis across America. Although it is settled law that medical cannabis is up to each state individually, it is equally clear that federal law renders the states' recreational cannabis laws unconstitutional. Those laws have only survived this long thanks to the Obama administration looking the other way.
Just as the Obama administration sued Arizona in 2010 to block its controversial immigration law targeting Hispanics, the Trump administration could sue the legal recreational cannabis states and obtain an order declaring the law unconstitutional and ordering the states to revoke all such business licenses. Then the Department of Justice could use those state records to track down and prosecute business owners, growers and even employees.
Prosecuting tens of thousands of people for trafficking cannabis is probably as likely as a roving deportation force rounding up all undocumented people, or a federal registry tracking all Muslims living in the United States. But, however unlikely that may seem, a lawsuit filed in January, before the newly legalizing states get too far into their process, is more likely. It now seems like a very real possibility that the new year may bring the end of America's experiment with recreational cannabis legalization for the foreseeable future.